News / Asia

    WHO Describes New Chinese Bird Flu Strain as 'Lethal'

    Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
    x
    Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
    Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security and Environment of World Health Organization (WHO), right, answers questions during Shanghai press conference, April 22, 2013.
    A top World Health Organization official says a new strain of bird flu in China that has already killed 22 people and spread throughout seven provinces and municipalities is one of the most lethal of its kind to date.

    A group of WHO specialists spoke with reporters Wednesday about the H7N9 virus, which has already infected more than 100 people in China. The WHO team arrived late last week for a five-day visit to learn more about the new virus.

    According to Keiji Fukuda, the WHO assistant director for health security, at this point, there is still not enough evidence to show the virus can spread easily from human to human.

    “When we look at influenza virus this is an unusually dangerous virus for humans…Based on the evidence that we see we think that this virus is more easily transmitted from poultry to humans than H5N1," he said.

    Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
    x
    Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
    Health workers take a blood sample from a chicken in Hong Kong, April 11, 2013.
    The H5N1 strain of bird flu surfaced in 2003.  In the past decade, it has swept across three continents and killed more than half of the 622 people it has infected.

    WHO and Chinese health officials stress the effort to understand the new strain is still in its early stages.

    Liang Wannian of the National Health and Family Planning Commission says just how effective the government’s prevention measures will be remains unclear. He says the extent of the public health risk from the virus remains uncertain, as well.

    "There are many unknown factors, including the source of the virus, the mutation of the virus, the pathogenicity, the virulence, the migration, the clinical symptoms and the epidemiological situation of the virus, so we need to study a lot, there are so many things that remained to be studied and learned," he said.  

    Chinese and WHO scientists all agree that birds infected by the virus, especially poultry, are the likely sources of human infection.

    Nancy Cox, director of the Flu Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also part of the WHO team.

    "So far, no samples from migratory birds or their habitats have been positive for H7N9," Cox said. "In contrast, samples from chickens, ducks and pigeons have been positive for H7N9 from poultry markets.   Also environmental samples taken from poultry markets have been positive."

    So far, the majority of deaths and infections from the new strain have occurred in Shanghai. Like many other cities where the virus has cropped up, authorities there have closed down live poultry markets, in response.

    Anne Kelson, director of the WHO Flu Research center in Melbourne Australia said the market closings appear to be helping.

    “We know that Shanghai rapidly on April 6 closed down their poultry markets in that municipality and it's been very encouraging to see that almost immediately there was a decline in the detection of the new cases and the cases that did occur all occurred in the next week, which you might expect to be within the incubation period of the virus," she noted.

    Still, Kelson added that this is no reason to relax. She said close monitoring of the impact the closure of such facilities should continue in the weeks and months to come.

    Although Chinese authorities said more than half of those infected have been individuals who had direct contact with poultry or birds, how the remaining number of those infected contracted the virus is less certain.

    The government has carried out tens of thousands of tests on birds but only several dozen have turned up positive.

    And, in one of the two cases of bird flu in Beijing so far, a young boy contracted the virus, without showing any symptoms of H7N9.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.